When they take the floor for Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Grizzlies on Friday night at FedEx Forum in Memphis, the Warriors will fully grasp the gravity of the matter.
A victory means their first trip to the conference finals in 39 years.
The Warriors also are aware of how difficult it will be. They got a reminder Thursday night, when the Los Angeles Clippers, trying to eliminate Houston, blew a 19-point lead in the second half and lost.
But if that game provides fresh caution to the Warriors, it also could serve to inspire the Grizzlies. Memphis, richly experienced, all grits and guts and pressure-treated lumber, will be tough to eliminate – particularly at home.
The Warriors probably wouldn’t mind a Game 7 back at the loud and cozy Oracle Arena, but do they want to take the chance?
OPENING LINE: Warriors by 5.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Stephen Curry vs. Mike Conley: If Curry wins this matchup for the third consecutive game, the Warriors will emerge victorious – no matter how well the Memphis big men play. Conley will try every trick in the book to contain Curry while also taking some prudent 3-point shots on his own. If they fall, the Grizzlies have a slim chance.
Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green vs. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph: It's OK if the Memphis duo continues to appreciably outscore Bogut and Green. Gasol and Randolph are winning cumulative scoring battle, 181-83, yet the Grizzlies have lost three of five games. The Warriors simply have to hold their own in the paint, making the Smash Brothers work for everything they get.
Klay Thompson vs. Tony Allen: Allen says he's going to play, regardless of what his hamstring says. I believe him because, well, he's the "Grindfather." Thompson should, and will, embrace being defended by a guy with a bad hammy. Honestly, the Warriors should want Allen on the floor for 25 minutes.
KEYS TO VICTORY
1-Pack the D. For two seasons, the Warriors have been fond of saying defense travels. That's how they explain their success on the road. Did they bring it to Tennessee?
2) Start fast. With the Grizzlies facing elimination, the crowd will be anxious and loud. The Warriors can extinguish the noise with an impressive first quarter.
3) Park on the arc. If the Warriors space the floor, they'll get open looks from deep and the Grizzlies will struggle to keep up. Three beats two. It's simple arithmetic.
"This is a basketball club that has never quit. They've never been known as quitters, and we don’t expect them to quit (today). We're going to have to come out, especially in front of this crowd, and give all we got if we want to win this game and close this series out." – Warriors forward Draymond Green on the Grizzlies
Warriors: F Marreese Speights (strained right calf) and C Ognjen Kuzmic (sprained left ankle) are listed as out.
Grizzlies: F Tony Allen (sore left hamstring) is listed as questionable.
The Warriors own a 3-2 lead in this best-of-seven series, the first playoff meeting between the teams. Since losing 11 consecutive regular-season games to Memphis, the Warriors have won seven of 10 meetings overall.